Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year, New Opportunities

            I like to think of a new year as a time to make a fresh start. I have a friend who doesn’t believe in making resolutions, because she believes it can discourage us if we don’t follow through. I don’t know if I call them resolutions, but I like to have goals of ways I hope to improve in the coming year.
            2012 writing goals: 
            -To hone my writing skills.
            -To explore and understand where I should concentrate my efforts: fiction, nonfiction or blogging, etc.
            -To not live according to other people's expectations of me. Although, I do want to listen to the advice of other writers, I need to make my own decisions when I am ready to move into a new area.

          2012 Personal/Spiritual Goals:
            -To increase my time I spend alone with God and the time I spend praying for others.
            -To read God’s Word deeply. Also, I want to memorize scripture. I am glad as a younger person I memorized many scripture verses, was a member of a Bible Quiz Team and a coach of a junior high team. I thank God for the love of His Word that was instilled in me at an early age.
Well, I don’t want to bore you because there are many similar posts out there at this time of the year. But, I wanted to write them down, because goals written down are more easily reached.
            Have a great 2012.
            What are your goals for the new year? 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Memories: The $50 I'll Never Forget

            It was December 1981, and I would soon move away from my childhood home for the first time and attend college in another state. I had decided to major in journalism at a Christian college and was working a full-time job and also doing part-time work to save the money for my tuition, room and board.
I saw an ad in a Christian magazine (the one I eventually worked for), about making a contribution to a fund that provided Christmas gifts for children of missionaries. I felt compelled to contribute, but wondered how I could do that when I needed to save money to go away to college.
            But, I felt it was the thing to do. I sent a check for $50.00 to the address indicated in the ad, and told no one about it.
            On that Christmas Eve, as was my family’s tradition, we opened gifts from my grandparents.  I opened a small box from them, with an envelope inside. When I looked inside the envelope it contained $50.00 in cash. It took my breath away as I saw the same amount in my hand that I had given as a gift to the missionary children. My grandparents had no idea I had donated the money, they just wanted to help me with my expenses for college.
            I don’t believe God always gives us back, in monetary terms, what we give to others, but I think sometimes He lets it happen so that we will be encouraged and remember that He is present in our lives and able to supply our needs.
            I did save enough money to go away to college, graduated, and was able to eventually work in Christian publishing. And I have never forgotten about that $50.00 on a special Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Memories: The Importance of Words

            I learned a lesson about the importance of words when I was a member of a Christmas choir at my hometown church, about thirty years ago.
            My hometown church had an average attendance of about 150 people (the largest church in our town). Our youth pastor, who had also been a music professor, organized a choir one Christmas (we didn’t have a choir on a regular basis) of those who wanted to sing and present a cantata (no tryouts in small churches). I was one of about fifteen who formed the group.
                                                         Bob Phillips/

            We sang mostly Christmas music we were familiar with, or so we thought. The first thing he taught us was how to breathe, so we could get the best sound out of our voices. He also instructed us how to sing particular words of songs, so that those listening would hear the words more clearly.  For example: When we sang the song, “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful,” he told us to sing the line: “Oh, Come Let Us Adore Him,” as, “Oh, come let TUS adore him.” Most of us found this humorous, but that made it memorable and we felt like we had a secret from the audience. It also made the rehearsals fun and we felt like a team.
            We sang on that Christmas Sunday to the best of our abilities and to the glory of God, remembering what we had learned.
But, I took away from that experience a truth about the power of words. We need to shape the way we speak and write so the hearer or the reader understands and enjoys our message.
Thanks, Terry, for something I remember every Christmas and in my daily work as a writer.
Don’t forget to adore Christ the Lord this Christmas.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Do You Have a Hard time with Promotion?

This is a guest post by Cherie Burbach. Cherie is an author, blogger, poet, crocheter and geek.

 You can find her at

Christian writers: Do you have a hard time with promotion? I hear this a lot from my fellow Christian writers: "How do you promote your work when you're not really supposed to brag about yourself?"
Bragging is not something a Christian is supposed to do right? But then how do you find readers? As Christians, we must constantly reflect about how we promote our work.


Promoting Books is a Must Today
There are simply too many authors and too many books out there today to skip promotion. It's a necessity if you want to reach the right readers. It isn't about getting someone to buy your book over someone else's, rather, it's about finding that special person who will get something out of your book, whether it's enjoyment, a lesson, or a call to faith.
And that's the reason we write, isn't it? Because we have some amazing stories about the wonderful things that God does and we want to share them with people. More importantly, we want to help the right people find them. Promotion helps do that.

Self Reflect Through Prayer
One thing I do to help make sure I'm "in check" with my faith when it comes to promotion is pray about it. I ask for guidance and then I confidently go out in the world. I try and listen to what God is telling me about my life and my writing, and I follow that advice. If I have a bad feeling about a certain marketing method I hold off and pray about it some more. If it doesn't seem like something I "should" do, I skip it. There are so many ways to network and promote your work today, so if one doesn't seem like it falls within your Christian sensibilities, pray about other opportunities.

Let God Do His Thing
Did you ever write something you thought was completely small and random, and yet someone told you it touched them? Inspired them? Those are my happiest times as a writer because I know this is all God's doing. He inspires our words and then uses them to reach out to someone else. I give all that glory to God, because I certainly know it isn't me!
Several years ago I wrote an essay for NPR, that I submitted and never heard a word about. I assumed it was another rejection, and completely forgot about it until six months later when a lady from NPR told me my essay was the second most popular out of tens of thousands of entries. In the essay (, I shared details of my childhood growing up with verbal abuse and an alcoholic parent. I remember writing that essay very quickly and not giving it much editing or thought. Imagine my surprise to hear that it was so popular!
Now, five years later, it's still one of the top five essays on their site, and I have people who email me, telling me they can relate to it. Each time I hear from someone, I am struck by God's amazing ability to connect with us all. When we realize how much we need God in our life, it will help you feel more confident about being a writer, and all the things that go along with writing professionally, including promotion.

Writers Generally Don't Like the Spotlight
Writers, in general, don't seem to like to promote. We're content to hide behind the computer screen and not have to make calls or reach out. But the reality of being a writer today is that marketing is part of our job. It doesn't mean you need to shout about your accomplishments when you enter a room, but you will need to connect with others and do your best to find readers.
If you're like me, you're a dork and feel funny about the whole promotion thing. But lean on God during these times. He will help guide you to the right situations. Sometimes, getting out of your comfort zone is exactly what God hopes you will do.

Cherie Burbach writes about friendship, dating, family, and relationships at (NY Times) and Life Goes Strong (NBC/Universal). She has penned eleven books and ebooks, including Internet Dating Is Not Like Ordering a Pizza and 21 Ways to Promote Your Book on Twitter, and has published over 500 articles on the subjects of health, sports, and lifestyle. For more info, visit her website,

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Launch Party Fun!

The launch party for Pam Meyers' book, Thyme for Love, was held at Panera in South Barrington, Illinois on Saturday, November 19. A beautiful event! Here are a few photos:

                                                    That's the title in coffee beans!

ACFW Northwest Chicago Group

The Basket Winner

                                                               Flowers for the Author

Friday, November 11, 2011

The winner of Thyme for Love is Aly Logan! Congrats!

Thyme for Love

Pamela S. Meyers

I welcome Pam Meyers to my blog today. Her first book, Thyme for Love, published by OakTara will be released this Monday, November 14. She has taken the time to answer some questions about her book and the writing life.

I am also giving away a copy of Thyme for Love. The last day to leave a comment to be entered into the drawing will be next Friday, November 18. A few things to remember:

- Don't forget to leave your email address.
- If you subscribe today to my blog, via Feedburner, or are a current subscriber, I will put your name in twice. Mention both in your comment.
- If you win, I must hear from you within seven days or I will draw again.

Give us a little preview, Pam, of Thyme for Love.
April Love has always dreamed of being a chef. When her Aunt Kitty hears of a in-house chef position for a non-profit organization housed in a lakeshore mansion next door, April returns to Canoga Lake, Wisconsin, where she’d spent many summers growing up, to apply for the job. When she discovers her former fiancĂ© Marc Thorne working there, she wonders if this position was really God’s intention for her. After all, Marc all but left her standing at the altar to chase his own dreams in California. It doesn’t take long to realize Marc is hiding secrets and despite returning feelings for the man, April determines she will not make the same mistake as she did eight years earlier. But when their boss is found dead and Marc is framed for his murder, April has no choice but to turn sleuth to keep Marc from being accused of a murder he didn’t commit.

What made you want to write this book?
I’ve always loved romance and mysteries, and decided to write a story that married the two elements together. I grew up in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and have always been fascinated by the many 20th Century mansions that dot the lake’s shoreline. I toyed with the idea of setting the story in one of those homes, but decided to create a smaller lake and village just to the east of Lake Geneva to gain more freedom with some of the details of the story and its characters. I loved having the area located close enough to Lake Geneva that April and Marc could go there for a meal at one of the actual restaurants. I also gave them backgrounds that involve working on Geneva Lake as many college students do during the summer months.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
In one way or another I’ve always written almost since I could hold a pencil. When I was eight years old I asked for a diary for Christmas and I wrote in it at different times of my childhood. I still have that little book and it contains bits and pieces of my life from age eight until sometime in high school. Even into my adult years I’d journal from time to time, but never thought of turning that “need” to put words to paper into a career until years later. While completing my bachelor’s through an accelerated adult program, one of my professors suggested I could make a living writing. I published several magazine articles, but as the hankering to write stories grew stronger, I began taking fiction writing classes. At a local writer’s conference a multipublished author suggested I could turn one of my short stories into a novel. That was all I needed to hear. I soon joined American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) while the organization was in its infancy and through their writing courses and conferences I continued to grow in the craft.

Have you written other novels besides Thyme for Love?
Oh yes. My first novel which I would classify as a women’s fiction languishes in my computer at the moment. Authors very seldom publish their first written work as that often turns out to be a practice project. The storyline still resonates with me and I’d love to one day pull it out and rework it. There are a couple other stories that will probably never see the light of day. I’m very excited to have a novel set in my hometown of Lake Geneva, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, coming out in June 2012 from Summerside Press. It’s a 1933 historical romance, and I had a blast researching for the story.

Do you have any plans for a sequel to Thyme for Love?
I’m so glad you asked. Thyme for Love is part of a three-book series called “On the Road to Love.” Books 2 and 3 involved April and Marc, and both are set in Canoga Lake. In Book 2, Love Will Find a Way, April moves into an old Victorian home with plans to turn it into a restaurant and catering business. It isn’t long before a discovery made while they are renovating the home threatens to hijack plans for the grand opening. In Book three, Love’s Reward, April and Marc’s wedding plans are in full swing, until it becomes apparent there is someone who doesn’t want them to marry.

How do you get your story ideas?
There’s an old adage to write what you know. I might add to that, to always keep your eyes and ears open for a possible story line. That first novel I wrote was sparked by something someone said to me when she showed me a picture of my great-grandfather’s grave. My Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin story grew out of wanting to know the history behind the beautiful lakeshore recreational building that has become an icon of the area. Just today a newspaper article sparked an idea I’d like to develop into a proposal.

What is your daily writing routine?
My best writing time is morning, but I’ve had to make myself work outside the box at times when that kind of schedule doesn’t work. Since I am a morning person, I find it best to set my alarm as if I’m going to work. I get up at 5:30 and spend at least an hour in my Quiet Time with God. Then I try to walk daily for exercise before settling down in my home office to write. I recently converted unused space in my dining are into an office and that has helped tremendously with getting the sense of “going to work.” This helps me stay on task. Too many years actually working Monday through Friday probably contributes to that. On days I have an obligation away from home in the morning, I have had to force myself to be creative in the afternoon and early evening. I think as I start working on deadlines more and more that’s going to be essential.

What advice do you have for new authors?
Persevere, persevere, and persevere. I started out aspiring to be published in novel writing more than ten years ago. I had the raw ability and desire to write, but that skill had to be trained and honed, much like a young colt has to be trained. I have learned that writers need to develop what we jokingly refer to as rhino skin and also we need a positive teachable attitude. Join critique groups, take writing courses, attend writing conferences where great teaching occurs and you’ll have opportunities to meet with industry professionals and pitch to editors and agents. ACFW has a great yearly conference ever September that is for fiction writers only. I cannot tout ACFW enough. It is a must organization to join for anyone who writes fiction from a Christian point of view.

When you aren’t writing, what fills your days?
I volunteer at my church in the multicultural ministry, helping Japanese women learn to speak English and lead a women’s small group Bible study. I’m also chapter president of my local ACFW chapter which meets monthly. Also, I enjoy reading (surprise, surprise) and movies. Love to cook and find new ways of making things. You’ll find an adaptation of a recipe someone gave me called Chicken George at the back of Thyme for Love. I loved having April prepare it in the novel, and look forward to experimenting with more recipes for the sequels.

Thanks, Pam for stopping by.

Don't forget to leave a comment to be in the drawing for Thyme for Love. Leave your email address and subscribe via feedburner if you want to be entered twice.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thanks, Lou Brown

Excuse me for taking a short break from my writing subjects to honor someone who molded me.

Today is the funeral of one of one of my Sunday school teachers and church youth leader. I live in another state and won't be able to attend. She lived to be 87-years-old. She laughed, prayed and counseled with us like we were her own kids. She would have us over to her house to participate in some activity to be together and learn from each other.
            I talked with her a few years ago and we were talking about the church in general, which she loved. We were talking about the contemporary music used in many churches, as opposed to hymns and she said: “You know, Tammie, I might not like all the music myself, but if it brings the young people in, I’m all for it!” I thought, God, give me that attitude when I reach my eighties.
            Lou recognized a leadership gift in me. After I committed my life to Christ, she pointed to me and said, “Tammie has a leadership gift and God will use her.” I’ve come to realize that not all leadership gifts are in the pulpit. We lead in our sphere of influence.
            I’ll paraphrase a line of a song we sing for those who molded us: Thanks, Lou, for giving to the Lord. You helped mold my life.

Is there someone who made a difference in your life when your were younger?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Write-A-Thon Giveaway

The winner of Write-A-Thon is Na. Congrats!

I welcome Rochelle Melander to my blog today. She will be answering questions about her new book, Write-A-Thon, which was published this month by Writer's Digest Books.

I will also be giving away a copy of Write-A-Thon. Please leave a comment and your email to be entered into the drawing. If you SUBSCRIBE to my blog this week, via Feedburner, and let me know in your comment, I will enter your name TWICE. The last day to leave a comment will be next Monday, November 7. 

1. Rochelle, what is a Write-A-Thon?

A write-a-thon is a writing marathon such as National Novel Writing Month, when participants try to write a 50,000-word book in a month! I created write-a-thon to give writers an opportunity to write their books fast whenever and however they wanted to do them! 

2. Your book is divided into three sections: Training, Write-A-Thon and Recovery. You spend the bulk of the book on training. Why is this so important?
I cannot imagine someone running a marathon without having trained. But, with appropriate training, many people can accomplish this amazing athletic feat. It’s the same with writing. When we have properly trained and prepared, we can write a book marathon style. When it comes to training for the write-a-thon, I review several aspects of the training process.
First, writers need to train their lives. This means clarifying their writing goals and creating a life that supports their writing. This may take some work, especially for people who are new to writing and have not yet made it a daily or weekly priority.
Second, writers need to train their writing muscles—practicing their craft as much as they can. Most runners do not start out running marathons. Instead, they run a few 5Ks until they get the hang of it. When we are beginning our careers, it is helpful to start by writing articles and short stories. Then, when we have some practice under our belt, we are better able to start and complete a book quickly.
Finally, writers need to plan their books. Most runners spend some time studying various races and choosing one that fits them. After they choose, they study the course for difficult terrain. They learn where the bathroom and water stops will be. They learn as much as possible so that the day of the race goes well. Writers who plan their books will have a much easier time writing marathon style. This might mean sketching characters, designing the plot, and creating a believable setting. Writers might want to put all of this into a document or a folder that they can consult during the writing marathon.

3. Until I got into the book, I always thought I had to carve out 26 consecutive days for a write-a-thon, but you give options to that scenario. Could you mention some of those?
I believe that writers will succeed if they create a writing marathon that suits their schedule. For some writers, that will be a straight shot of 26 days. For others, it will be over the course of 26 Saturdays, 13 weekends, or 26 days within a longer period, like a summer. In the book, I encourage writers to examine their lives and give them tools to discover when they write best and what type of writing marathon would work best for them.

4. You noted that you wrote the rough draft of this book a couple of years ago during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which starts tomorrow! Talk about your specific scheduling for writing this book.
I went in to 2009’s NaNoWriMo with a pretty decent outline and a whole binder full of research. I’d been compiling notes on this book since 2006. I set aside every weekday morning to write. I always tried to meet the daily word count goal of about 1700 words. If possible, I also tried to write a bit extra each day, especially in the beginning. Anything extra I wrote became words in the bank. Once I had 1700 words, I could take a day off. I tried to write enough so that I could take a whole weekend off. Sometimes that meant putting in a few double word count days, when I would amass 3400 words in a morning. Before I left my desk each day, I would decide what I wanted to write the next morning. That way, my subconscious was able to work on the ideas while I worked, exercised, and took care of the kids!

5. You talk about Plan A and Plan B, with Plan A being our ideal writing conditions. Could you talk a little bit about Plan B and how it can help us accomplish our writing goals?
Plan A is the ideal—what I described above in my recollection of NaNoWriMo 2009. Of course, ideal does not always work. Kids get sick, stuff happens at work and home, and we experience fatigue. But, just because stuff happens does not mean our deadline changes. We still have to finish on time. Sometimes, we need to find and use a Plan B! Several years ago, I had my gall bladder removed two weeks before a deadline for a big writing project I was doing with my husband. I woke up from surgery and heard my husband asking me questions about how to proceed with the project. That was using a Plan B—we needed to finish the project and that meant working from the hospital!
It can help to create a Plan B before stuff happens. That might mean imagining what interruptions might derail us and then coming up with some ideas for overcoming the obstacles. So, a writer expecting a house filled with company during Thanksgiving week might just plan to write at a coffee shop during that week. Another writer with small children might expect that someone will get sick during the month and decide ahead of time how she or he will cope with that. All of us might benefit by scheduling extra writing time for the month just in case our regular writing time gets bumped by other stuff. Having a Plan B means we can write and meet our deadlines no matter what catastrophe hits!

6. Why do we need to have a time of recovery after a Write-A-Thon?
All writers need to recover physically and mentally from the work of the write-a-thon. Writing is hard work! Before we can edit or even reread our book, we need to rest and clear our minds. Once we have rested, we can begin the hard work of reading and revising our book. Because we have rested, we are better able to review our book with fresh eyes. And that is part of the recovery, too. During the recovery we reread our book, revise it, and get it ready for publication. We might even hire an editor to help us with this! After that comes the hard work of creating and submitting query letters and book proposals. Once the book gets accepted, we will probably need to revise it again. And no doubt, most of us will be starting a new project at the same time as we are wrapping up this one! That is the beauty of the writing life!

7. Is there anything you would like to add about your book?
I hope it will help writers of all types—nonfiction, playwrights, poets, and novelists—write their work. I meet so many writers who are putting of their dreams of writing because they are too busy or too fearful. I wrote Write-A-Thon to show writers how they can manage their crazy lives and write their books as well!

Rochelle Melander is a certified professional coach and the author of 10 books, including a new book to help fiction and nonfiction writers write fast: Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) (October 2011). Melander teaches professionals how to get published, establish credibility, and navigate the new world of social media. In 2006, Rochelle founded Dream Keepers Writing Group, a program that teaches writing to at-risk tweens and teens. Visit her online at She will be blogging about NaNoWriMo all month at

Leave a comment to be entered into the drawing for a free copy of Write-A-Thon. Subscribe and you will be entered twice.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I'm Chillin!

            I noticed that my laptop would get very warm when I worked at my desk, and also if I worked in another room with the computer on my lap. I needed a way to let the laptop breathe and not overheat.

            I took a trip to my local office supply store to look for a fan or cooler I had heard about. I found one that was on sale for only $20. The device, which contains two small fans, sits on my desk and I put my laptop on it.  A cable plugs into the laptop’s USB port and into the cooler. When it runs it makes a humming sound, which doesn’t distract me as I find it calming.
            It is also lightweight and small enough to take along with my laptop as I work in other rooms of the house. Since using it, my computer does not become so hot to the touch.

            Sometimes, something so small makes a world of difference.
            The link to the cooler I have is below. There are other brands and models. In fact, as I was pulling this post together I saw others I would like to try. Of course!
Link: I purchased the Laptop Chill MatTM by TargusTM .

Do you use a cooling device?


Friday, October 14, 2011

Are You Ready for An Impromptu Research Trip?

            A few weeks ago, my husband and I were returning from a family wedding in Indiana, when we decided to take a slight detour and visit the George Rogers Clark Historical Park in Vincennes, Indiana. Clark led frontier settlers against the British and helped to win the American Revolutionary War and open westward expansion.
            I had visited this memorial site as a fourth grader, and since I am writing an historical novel set in Indiana, I jumped at the chance.
            After our visit, I made a list of how to make the best of an impromptu research stop:
1.     Gather or participate in any freebies. Upon our arrival, we viewed a short film about the life of George Rogers Clark. This gave us the background to more enjoy our stay. Also look for any phamplets or brochures.
2.     Talk to the Park Rangers. I have found the Park Rangers who work at historical sites are very knowledgeable and they love to talk to visitors. They will share historical background, other sites in the area you might visit and unique facts that wows you. Although, they are sometimes difficult to get away from because they so enjoy talking about their subject.
3.     Unique printed resources. There will probably be a gift shop and you may find some books or pamphlets unique to the area that may not be found online, etc. It may be worth checking these out. I picked up a large set of early maps of the area for $10.
            What began as a family wedding outing also became an impromptu research trip. Whenever you are out and about you never know when something will happen to help you along the path to your next story.

Have you been on an impromptu research trip that led to a story or novel?

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Productive Writer

The winner of the drawing for The Productive Writer is Rick Barry. Congrats!!

This is a guest post by author Sage Cohen. In July I gave away a copy of her book, The Productive Writer (Tips & Tools to help you Write More, Stress Less & Create Success). Since the response was so positive, I am giving away another copy. So leave a comment to be in the drawing.


Practice Deliberately (And Hit Your Target)
A guest post by author Sage Cohen

“The best people in any field are those who devote the most hours to what the researchers call ‘deliberate practice.’ It’s activity that’s explicitly intended to improve performance, that reaches for objectives just beyond one’s level of competence, provides feedback on results and involves high levels of repetition.

For example: Simply hitting a bucket of balls is not deliberate practice, which is why most golfers don’t get better. Hitting an eight-iron three hundred times with a goal of leaving the ball within 20 feet of the pin 80 percent of the time, continually observing results and making appropriate adjustments, and doing that for hours every day—that’s deliberate practice.”—Geoffrey Colvin, senior editor-at-large, Fortune Magazine

Have you ever gotten halfway through a piece of writing and found yourself floundering about what you were actually trying to accomplish in the first place? This is where the concept of deliberate practice comes in. When you set your sights on specific goals for a piece of writing, then you’ll know exactly how close you come to achieving your goal.

Try writing out as many of these details at the top of your piece, or on a Post-It note that you attach to your computer screen or your working file folder. For example, I wrote this at the top of a recent piece I’d been contracted to write:

·        Target word count: 1,500
·        To appear in: Poet’s Market 2012
·        Audience: Aspiring poets with varying levels of publishing experience
·        Topic: Why Poets Need Platforms and How to Create One

I challenge you to name and claim the key objectives of every piece of writing, even a blog post, short story, essay, or poem, regardless of whether you’ve been hired to write it or if you ever intend to share it. Here are a few tips to get you started:

1.  Choose a listener
When you know the audience you are writing for, you can start to imagine their needs, questions, objections, and level of interest. The simplest way to define this audience is by choosing a single person who is representative of this group, and write it “for them.” Maybe this person can even be available to read and give feedback about your work, to help you learn if it was received as you intended.

2.  Name the objective of what you are writing
If you are writing on assignment or for a client, this is where you’d articulate exactly what goals you’ve been hired to accomplish. If you are writing something for a themed contest or publication, define the topic or parameters within which you must perform. And if you are writing creative nonfiction, poetry, or fiction that is not driven by particular submission requirements, try setting your own standard for what you expect this piece to do/be/accomplish and then observe if this makes a difference in your writing and revising experience.

3.  Write! You know everything you need to know about this, already! [This is the sound of me shaking my pom-poms.]

4.  Revise! Anyone who’s ever spent years revising a single piece of writing knows all too well what hitting an eight-iron three hundred times might be like. Now, get out there and start swinging.

5.  Evaluate whether you have achieved your objective
When your piece feels finished, revisit the goals articulated in numbers one and two, and see how your writing measures up. If there are discrepancies, return to number four, and then repeat. If you didn’t hit the mark the first time, don’t worry. Remember, this is all practice. And the only way we improve is through repetition. Practice shapes us, so we can most effectively give shape to our writing.

[Excerpted from The Productive Writer]

About Sage Cohen
Sage Cohen is the author of The Productive Writer and Writing the Life Poetic, both from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. She blogs about all that is possible in the writing life at

Leave a comment to be in the drawing for The Productive Writer. The last day to leave a comment is Monday, October 10.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Are You Afraid to Say You Are A Writer?

            Last week I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Conference with over 600 published and unpublished writers. There were classes about writing, publishing and marketing. We laughed, cried, talked and talked some more into the wee hours of the mornings, about our writing.
            But, in the regular course of my day, when someone asks me who I am and what I do, I sometimes hesitate, and then tell them that I work at a public library (my part-time day job). Afterwards, if my husband is with me, he will ask me: “Why don’t you tell people you are a writer?”
            So, I thought about that question and these are my conclusions:
1.  It is too difficult to explain and I get funny looks. When I first started freelance writing, I was working at home. When people asked me what I did and I told them, of course they asked: “What do you write?” When I tried to explain that I wrote daily devotionals and articles for Sunday school take-home papers they would say: “What are those?” I tried to explain and then they said: “Do you make a living at that?” Of course, I had to answer: “Well, no,” and then they smiled and I believed they were thinking: “She’s not a real writer.”

2.  I doubt my writing skills. Even though I have a degree in Journalism, been an editor for a weekly newspaper and have published articles, I do doubt my skills. I think because grammar is not my strong suite, I have always felt inadequate.

3.  It sounds presumptuous. Me, a writer? I’m not a bestselling author nor do I have articles in major magazines.

4.  I’m afraid I will fail. If I say I am a writer, I fear I will hear: “Hey I have this writing project.” I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it.

            Well, I have said it. These are some of the reasons I won’t say who I am or say it so quietly no one can hear. Most of my fears deal with how other people perceive me, which I just simply need to get over! If I feel a lack of skills, those can be learned, and people don’t become bestselling authors overnight.

            How about you? Do you find it hard to admit that you are a writer?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Are You Using Twitter Correctly?


Is Twitter working for you? If the answer is no, you might want to address some of these common mistakes that people make when using Twitter. If you use the site correctly, it can be a wonderful source for information, networking, and promotion. Here are some tips to make sure your Twitter experience is as positive as it can be.

Banish the Egg

You look like a creepy spammer if you don’t put up your photo. Twitter is about conversation, so if you don’t put up a (real) picture you won’t be as successful in engaging people.

Post Often Enough

If you post once every couple of weeks (or longer) with a link to something you want to promote and that's it, you won't have a positive experience. The benefit of Twitter is that it's a dynamic community. Popping in once every few weeks just to promote yourself is like entering a football stadium with a piece of paper that says: "Look at me."

Don’t Just Post Links

While Twitter can be a good source of promotion, don't go into trying only to promote. Instead, engage in conversation. Get to know people. Retweet other people's links, and aim to connect people with resources rather than sell them something.

Fill Out Your Profile

If you want people to find you, you need to fill out your Twitter profile. Update your bio, put in your website, and make sure your background is pleasing. All of these pieces can make your Twitter profile something of interest rather than something people ignore.

Think "Search" Rather Than "Inbox"

One of the best things about Twitter is that it is a massive search resource. You don't need to follow people in order to see tweets (nor do they need to follow you) because you can search for the terms you want to chat about. Do you want to know what's happening in your hometown? Enter the city name in the search box. Looking for what's news on your favorite TV show? Enter the name and you'll get a list of tweeters who are talking about it.

Use Hashtags

People can find the things you post easier when you use hashtags. So instead of saying, "Give money to diabetes research," say, "Give money to #diabetes research." When someone searches for diabetes, your tweet will come up whether they follow you or not.

Stop Following People to Get Followed

I've heard this from a bunch of people, and I'm not sure why they think they will get more followers if they follow others. Instead, follow the people you find interesting. They might follow you back. If you want more followers, get engaged in the community and be an interesting tweeter.

Cherie is an author, blogger, poet, crocheter and geek. She is the Guide to Friendship and has penned eleven books and ebooks, including Internet Dating Is Not Like Ordering a Pizza and 21 Ways to Promote Your Book on Twitter. She has published over 500 articles on the subjects of health, sports, and lifestyle. For more info, visit her website,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Writing Daily Devotionals, Part Two

Suzzane Wesley won the packet of sample devotionals. Congrats, Suzzane!

Welcome to Part Two (see Part One) and the conclusion of my tutorial on Writing Daily Devotionals. In the first installment I defined daily devotionals, compared assignment versus submission, and listed some possible markets.

Please leave a comment as I will be giving away a sampling of some daily devotional booklets. They will not all be current, but you will be able to go to a website to get new guidelines.

That’s a Devotional!
The longer I write devotionals, the more they have become a part of my thought process. Ideas come to me as I go through my daily routine and I find myself saying: “That’s a devotional!” I keep a list of ideas in a small journal that I refer to when I do assignments or submit to a publication.
Key Elements
The following are usually the key elements of a devotional:
            Part One:  Title – usually two to four words
Part Two:  Scripture - the scripture you have chosen or are assigned
Part Three:  Anecdote – an event in life that helps to explain the scripture
Part Four:  Application – how the anecdote applies specifically to the reader, a take-away, something the reader can actually apply
Sometimes you might be asked to give a summary statement of 5-10 words that the reader can remember throughout their day or a short prayer a person can say at the end of their devotional time.
Actual Devotional
            I will take the key elements and step you through an incident that happened to me last week that helped me write a devotional.
As I was taking a walk, I greeted a woman who was getting her mail, and she complimented me for walking (I will insert her dialogue into the following sample). As I thanked her and walked on, I began to think about this post and what the woman had said to me, and “Aha, that’s a devotional.”
            Title: Cheer on the Family
            Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
            My first paragraph with the anecdote:
            As I walked in my neighborhood, I saw a woman, getting her mail out of her box. She looked at me, smiled and said to me: “You look good. Keep at it. You know I lost twenty pounds walking. It is such a great thing to do.” I agreed with her and thanked her for her encouragement.
Then I followed with another paragraph for my application:
Life can sometimes be discouraging, even if we are believers. Everyone needs a cheerleader.  Whenever we take on a new project, lose a job, need advice, the encouragement we give to each other is priceless. Our words can spur others on and remind us that this life is temporal and our destination is heaven.  
Some devotionals also include a summary statement:
Let us not forget to encourage our fellow believers.
And then we finish with our name or byline:
Tammie Edington Shaw
Additional Tips
            Remember, these are general guidelines as every publication will have their own formula. They may also let you know whether to write in the first or third person and if to include anecdotes or to use a different form to explain a biblical truth, such as expository, etc.
I also usually begin an assignment by reading the scripture and using a Bible dictionary and/or commentary to understand the context. I also write my assigned verses on index cards and carry them with me when I walk, take a trip and also keep them in my Bible when I have a quiet time.
Leave a comment or question and I will be giving away a sampling of some daily devotional booklets. This will run through next Sunday, September 18.